William A. Fischer II, MD, a clinical instructor in the Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, is the recipient of the 2013 Association of Specialty Professors-IDSA Young Investigator Award in Geriatrics. This award provides support to infectious diseases faculty within the first four years of appointment who are interested in pursuing a career in geriatric medicine aspects of the subspecialty. Recipients of this award must develop and implement a basic, clinical, or health services research project encompassing the geriatric aspects of infectious diseases.
Dr. Fischer earned his medical degree from UNC in 2004 and completed an Internal Medicine residency, a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and was selected as an Assistant Chief of Service at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Described by his colleagues and sponsor as tireless in his pursuit of scientific research that impacts clinical care in the U.S. and internationally, and unwavering in his dedication to patients, Dr. Fischer has accumulated significant experience in viral infections including as an Emerging Infectious Disease Advanced Laboratory Fellow at the CDC, Clinical Advisor to the Global Influenza Programme at the World Health Organization and most recently as the clinical liaison between the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Maryland State Department of Health during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. He recently joined the faculty at UNC in 2012.
Influenced by the disproportionate burden of disease that influenza imposes on older adults, Dr. Fischer’s research aims for a deeper understanding of how aging affects the interaction between live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIV) and human nasal epithelial cells. Specifically, Dr. Fischer will compare how aging affects both the replication of LAIV strains and the nasal epithelial cells’ innate response to vaccination. Dr. Fisher’s preliminary findings suggest that there are age-specific epithelial cell factors that affect virus replication and the mucosal response, which ultimately limit vaccine efficacy. His hypothesis is that elevated pro-inflammatory factors associated with aging inhibit LAIV replication, resulting in decreased dendritic cell activation and ineffective vaccination in older adults compared to younger populations. This research will lay the foundation for further work on the immunology of aging, with the ultimate goal of designing novel vaccines for older adults who are the most susceptible population to influenza infection yet remain the least protected from current vaccines.
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